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How to Teach Proper Airplane Etiquette to Children

Updated on August 30, 2016

Children are Children

I watched as the plane boarded, I was counting the littlest passengers. We were going to Orlando and my boyfriend (at the time) did not deal well with noisy children on planes. We had to go to Orlando, and there was no alternative. We were next to children, all going to Disney.

A woman sat across from us with her two children, both dressed in t-shirts and shorts. The little boy looked over and began telling us about the vacation that they were going on. My boyfriend stood up and made me move from the window seat to the aisle so that he would not be bothered.

As the flight took off, the chipper kids began to cry and whine for their mother. They were scared of the noises from the plane. I motioned her and she looked at me with disbelief. She then told me that her children were going to have to learn patience and she was reading a very interesting novel!

When traveling with children, one thing that we must all be mindful of is that children, no matter how mature they may seem, are still children.


Preparing Your Child For Travel

Each age group will have different levels of comprehension. My nieces were very young when we took our first trip, and I prepared for it well in advance. Here are some topics that we covered:

  • What we need to pack for our trip
  • What we will do at the airport. I started with parking the car and remembering where we were parked and went through airport security, the airport and things we can do there
  • How we will board the plane
  • Why we take as little as possible onto the plane
  • How to go to the bathroom on the plane
  • What happens if you get lost at the airport and different places that we will be going
  • How we treat other passengers and the people working on the plane


Explaining Correct Behavior

With my nieces, I explained that when we are traveling, it is the same as if we all are on a school bus. If one person misbehaves on the bus, everyone else has to deal with them and hear them being bad.

I explained what ears that hurt can feel like, what foods are offered on the plane, and why we will be bringing our own trash bags to clean up any messes that we make.

I also explained that the seat we get is the seat that we get. There can be no switching seats unless we are told to switch by the people on the plane.

We practiced a lot of please and thank you words, and we also practiced the art of speaking loudly without shouting since planes are loud and it is hard to hear.


Watching Videos Before You Fly

There are loads of wonderful videos online that address the entire flight process. Take the time to preview the video and then share them with your child/ren. Knowing what will happen when you are on the plane can allay the fears of children and adults.

Knowing where you will be sitting on the plane before you go is another helpful tip. Children love to be informed and they are generally calmer if they know what to expect. If a child is old enough, you can get them to help you find your seats.

I made a game of getting out of the aisle for my nieces. Not only were they praised for getting out of the aisle and stopping the flow of traffic, but fastening their seat belts and stowing their items in the space on the floor in front of their seat.

Realize that for take off, all passengers need to have all of their personal items stowed. Stowed does not mean placed in your hand or under your leg, but instead stowed means securely put away.

Many of the major carriers now have boarding videos. You can view these online, too.


Bring Mess Free Entertainment For Children

I like bringing things for children to play with, read or look at.

I bring one item for each hour of airplane flight time plus two items additional in case we are delayed. In the time that we are at the airplane terminal, age appropriate games can be played without taking things out. Here are some suggestions:

For toddlers and babies who cannot count or read yet, play "I spy" but make it very easy.

Things to "spy"


Flight Attendants









For the older child that can recognize colors and some letters, add on the following:

Shoes by color

Clothes by color

Certain letters on the cover of books and magazines

How many suitcases can you count in one minute

How many hats can you count in one minute

How many minutes until our flight

What color is our plane

Who has the tickets

Go to the bathroom, use bathroom and wash hands and face

For the older child than that, a book or personal electronic device can be awesome, but find a plug to use while in the airport. They are everywhere. I always pack a small extension cord with many outlets so that all of the kids can charge while only using one plug, and I make sure that we gather everything when we go to board the plane.

If there is another traveler who wants to use an open outlet on our plug, I always say yes and tell them that when we unplug, I will happily plug their device directly in.

If the flight is delayed, explain this to your child/ren and let them know that when delays happen, we stay calm, cool and collected.


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